Archive for the ‘Beans and Grains’ Category

Standard Staple

February 5, 2012

Although I have not been writing, there has been a significant amount of testing in my kithcen. This recipe unfortunately is not something new and exciting, just a slight variation of a standard and delicious dish: dhal. I got the recipe from a fun book that's all about different kinds of spices but varied it based on available ingredients.


all cooked and blended in my medium skillet


inspired by The Spice Bible by Jane Lawson

  • 4 ounces lentils
  • 2T peanut oil
  • ½t mustard seeds
  • 4 curry leaves
  • dash turmeric
  • ½t ground cumin
  • ½t ground coriander
  • ½T fresh ginger chopped
  • 1 dried thai chili
  • ¼c evaporated milk
  1. Heat lentils in a pot covered with twice the volume of water until they boil.
  2. Simmer the lentils for 30 minutes until soft.
  3. Drain excess liquid and set aside.
  4. Heat peanut oil in a medium-large skillet on medium-high heat.
  5. Add the mustard seeds and cover until they pop.
  6. Add the curry leaves, turmeric, cumin, coriander, and ginger and heat for a minute.
  7. Add the milk until it foams.
  8. Add the chili pepper and lentils and stir to coat in the spices.
  9. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and let the spices blend.


Originally the recipe did not call for any milk to be added but I find this makes the lentils soupy and thick. The peanut oil rather than vegetable oil adds a lot of flavor and was inspired by Malaysian and Indonesian recipes with similar spices. The original recipe is dhal saag so it calls for chopped spinach to be added at the end. I’m sure it would be very tasty with the spinach – in fact, I added spinach to my grocery list after reading the recipe but then I made it anyway. Another ingredient that I did not use was mung beans. I think they are smaller and perhaps tastier. I just used regular old lentils and it tastes wonderful. These amounts are also half of the original recipe. It makes enough for 2 large servings or 4 side dish size servings.


Faster, Higher, Stronger

October 31, 2011

Ok, I’ll admit the Olympic motto doesn’t quite fit what I set out to do here. There are no illicit substances in these nuts so they won’t get you higher but they were made faster and taste stronger. I prefer to cook without a recipe in front of me, instead, following my instincts and vague recollections of recipes past. I did a pretty good job of replicating my own version of spiced nuts this time, adding a step of toasting the nuts first for best flavor and using a pre-mixed version of the spices. The only time-saver remaining is making the syrup. I think starting with a more even ratio of water to sugar will help.

Sweet and Spicy Nuts

Pecans coated with an assortment of spices and sugar.

Sweet and Spicy Nuts

created by Sarah Johnson
inspired by Santa’s Spicy Nuts

  • 1c pecans
  • ¼c brown sugar
  • 2T chinese five spice
  • 2t chili powder
  • 1t ginger powder
  1. Toast pecans in a pan over medium-high heat until slightly browned. Set aside.
  2. Sprinkle spice powders over pecans and stir to combine.
  3. Combine brown sugar and same amount of water in a pan over medium heat until thick, slow-bursting bubbles form.
  4. Pour the sugar mixture over the nuts, stir to combine.
  5. Let the sugar harden over the nuts before eating.

Notes and Variations

The sugar mixture needs to be cooked to the "hardball" stage, also known as the "fish eye" stage. I took this picture when my sugar mixture was nearly at the hardball stage. The problem here is that the bubbles were bursting too fast which means that the syrup was too thin still, but the bubbles are a good size.

Hardball Stage

Brown sugar and water boiling near the hardball stage.

The biggest issue with this dish is getting the sugar to harden on the pecans. I never do it right, don’t want to wait, and so just eat the nuts with a spoon while they’re still sticky. If you want to do this properly, you should spray a baking tray with oil, maybe even cover it with parchment paper then spray with oil, and bake the pecans for a few minutes on low heat so that the sugar hardens. I have not tried this, again, an issue of patience and hunger! It should work in theory though.

One more note about variations: nuts! I used pecans cause they absorb the syrup well, taste good with the spice and sugar, and were on hand. This would also taste good with peanuts, probably cashews, and most other nuts. Perhaps even a mixture of them all!

Less Light – More Color!

October 28, 2011

The days get short, the light's gone from the sky, we wake up and come home to darkness as wintry weather turns the sky gray. This is not a fun time of year in the Northeast. So to cheer things up, here's a recipe that pulls together a variety of foods and textures in a single healthy dish. And it's so bright! Be sure to serve it in a glass dish so you can see the colorful layers.

Warning: this recipe will take time! It's best prepared with leftovers. So go ahead, cook a whole pumpkin. Make soup, pie, toast the seeds, and leave a little for this recipe. Need an excuse to cook cranberries? Make juice! Greens and tempeh can be cooked easily as needed. The measurements are vague estimates since it can all be prepared to taste or ingredient availability. Overall, this turned out to be a wonderful mix of ingredients on hand – both delicious and pretty!

Colorful Harvest Medley

A mixture of colorful fall foods that are good for your body, your palate and pleasing to the eye!

Colorful Harvest Medley

created by Sarah Johnson

  • ½c wild rice
  • ½c brown rice
  • 1c roast pumpkin cubes
  • ½c fresh cranberries
  • ¼c sugar
  • 4 leaves chard
  • 4 slices tempeh
  • 4T olive oil
  1. Cook the rice. For me this means 1c rice, 2c water, bring to a boil, simmer covered for 40min.
  2. If your pumpkin is fresh, cut in half, place face down on a baking sheet, cook at 400F for about 20-40min until just soft.
  3. Place cranberries and ½c water in a small pan, bring to a boil, then simmer covered for at least 5min. Cranberries will turn totally red and taste sweet (add more sugar to taste). Strain and save the juice for drinking!
  4. Chop tempeh into squares and cook in a pan with 2T oil until tempeh browns on both sides.
  5. Layer the ingredients: rice, chard, tempeh, pumpkin, cranberries.
  6. Drizzle olive oil over the mixture and enjoy!